History made as Hadrian's Wall illuminated

CALLS were made yesterday for the Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall event to be an annual happening after more than 25,000 people turned out on Saturday night to witness the spectacle.

CALLS were made yesterday for the Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall event to be an annual happening after more than 25,000 people turned out on Saturday night to witness the spectacle.

Around 1,200 volunteer illuminators manned gas beacons or held flares at 515 points along the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall National Trail Path.

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Hundreds more people were involved in back-up and support roles.

The event, with a helicopter filming the advancing line of light, has had international coverage from Europe to Australia and the Philippines, raising the profile of the world heritage site.

It also generated a visitor spend of about £1m over the weekend.

Last night, there was talk of hopes that lighting the Wall could become a heritage version of the Great North Run in event terms.

Businessman Brian Keen estimated that at least 10,000 people packed into a five-mile stretch of the central section of Hadrian’s Wall from Sewingshields to Cawfields in Northumberland.

Brian, with wife Pauline, has run the Twice Brewed Inn facing the Wall for nine years. Previously they operated the Once Brewed youth hostel for 24 years.

“We have been here for 33 years and we have never seen so many people. They came in droves,” said Brian.

“It was brilliant and they should do it every year to start off the holiday season. People came from all over the world and it was just great.

“You could tell from the accents in the pub that people were here from America, Scotland the south of England, wherever. People love the Wall and they identify with it, and they wanted to be here. For many, it was a personal thing and they were always going to come.

“As a spectacle, it was quite emotional to see the lights advancing and the atmosphere was very good.”

Brian’s 14 rooms were fully booked immediately after the event was announced and the inn served almost 400 meals on the day.

“It was mad busy. We put on a reduced menu and served more meals than we have ever done. All the B&Bs around here were full,” said Brain.

At Wallsend, 2,000 people packed the Segedunum site and the gates had to be closed with another 2,000 left looking on from outside.

Berlin-based Theater Anu put on a half-hour show telling the story of a winged boy, with his costumed mother enacting her part on the roof of the fort’s museum and four winged angel figures appearing on the top of the site’s observation tower.

A procession of soldiers escorted a torch to the light the first beacon at the fort at 5.45pm, which was followed by a fireworks finale.

All three ticketed spectator points along the central section of the Wall at Brocolitia, Housesteads and Birdoswald had long been fully booked, and other drivers parked where they could and walked to get a view.

Around 10,000 people were out in Carlisle city centre to greet the light when it arrived in Bitts Park at 6.50pm.

About 4,000 took part in a torchlight procession, with bands and a heliosphere balloon, from which was staged an aerial acrobatics show.

Ian McNichol, director of Carlisle Renaissance, said: “High-quality cultural events have a tremendous positive impact on the city economy, attracting visitors and investment and showcasing our unique heritage.”

The line of light ended at the Wall’s westernmost point at Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria, with the last beacon being fired just after 7pm, marked by Roman re-enactors firing burning arrows into the sea.

Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall was led by Hexham-based Hadrian’s Wall Heritage and is part of a programme of events developed by the culture10 team based at the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative and the Lakes Alive programme in Carlisle presented by Kendal Arts International and Manchester International Arts.

It is also a flagship event of British Tourism Week 2010.

Carol Bell, head of culture and major events for culture10 at Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: “The development of this project has been an incredible journey that could not have been possible without the extraordinary commitment of so many partners. It is a fitting tribute to our unique landscape, and a celebration of its history.”

Page 3 - A giant machine with 1,500 people in it and thousands of moving parts >>

A giant machine with 1,500 people in it and thousands of moving parts

ORGANISERS of the Hadrian’s Wall event say they were “overwhelmed” by the response of people to the ambitious project.

On the calls for the illumination event to be staged each year, Linda Tuttiett, chief executive of Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, said: “All things are possible. We have a completely open mind about it.”

John Farquhar Smith, who runs Flux Events which planned the Wall spectacular, said: “It was a massive challenge but we now have a model which works, and I would love to do it again, perhaps with some refinements.

“It was supposed to be a once in lifetime event, but when you consider the amount of people who took part and watched, it really caught the public’s imagination.”

Ms Tuttiett, who watched the event from Steel Rigg in Northumberland, said: “The atmosphere was electric and everybody seemed to enjoy being part of something in which so many people were involved. The whole place was buzzing.

“It was great to see so many people in the landscape and sharing the world heritage site.”

John Farquhar Smith took on the Hadrian’s Wall project after planning the launch event for the newly-revamped St Pancras Station in London and the handover ceremony in Beijing for the 2012 Olympics.

Illuminators gathered at 13 muster points for training and were then bussed to cells two miles long which each held 24 volunteers.

Negotiations had to be held with 120 landowners.

“What we created was a giant machine with 1,500 people in it and thousands of moving parts,” said Mr Farquhar Smith.

“The number of people who turned up was amazing and there was a feeling of real joy.”

The event cost £300,000 to stage with funding coming from the Arts Council, Culture10, Lakes Alive and Carlisle Renaissance.

Page 4 - From near and far, they made it a special night >>

From near and far, they made it a special night

ILLUMINATORS talked yesterday about their experiences lighting the wall.

Lauren Harrison manned a beacon at Willowford Farm In Gilsland, just on the Cumbrian side of the border where she lives with partner Liam McNulty.

She also runs a B&B at the farm which was fully booked for the event.

She said: "It was brilliant and there was a really good atmosphere. Our guests said how much they had enjoyed it.

"It really caught people’s imaginations. It was a great idea," said Lauren, who chaired the campaign to make Hadrian’s Wall a Fair Trade zone.

Jennifer Rudd, 64, travelled from the city of Pickering in Ontario, Canada, to be a part of the Hadrian’s Wall Illumination and stayed with relatives in Gunnerton in Northumberland.

She was born and grew up in Wall village, near Hexham, before emigrating to Canada 20 years ago.

She said: "I feel honoured and excited to have been chosen to be in this event which will promote this amazing part of the country that I was born in.

"The history of the area and the Wall has always fascinated me and I regularly took my children to the various forts, museums and parts of the wall when they were small."

Belgian Katleen Vandenbranden and Matthais Fabian, Nijswiller, from Holland, who are both Roman re-enactors, also travelled to be illuminators.

Katleen said: "Taking part in such an event as this one as a re-enactor really feels like bringing history back to life and using volunteers to do so is even better since heritage is something that belongs to everyone rather than to a handful of educated people. No exhibition about any Roman topic can give the same feeling to a visitor as participating in a project like this one."

Many volunteers took part to mark a special event, such as a birthday, anniversary or wedding.

Patrick and Anne Marie Falvey from Edinburgh were celebrating the start of married life.

"As we have recently been married we thought this would be a great thing to do together as a couple," said Anne Marie.

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